'City of bombs' or City of Culture?

By Simon Hunter
BBC News

image captionDerry residents celebrate winning UK City of Culture

Less than 18 months ago Londonderry was named as the inaugural UK City of Culture.

It was a symbol of a new Derry in a new Northern Ireland and celebrated by hundreds of people in the Guildhall.

The city was building to 2013 with a variety of high profile events and the promise of more to come.

In June, the Peace Bridge, linking the two halves of Derry, was opened by the first and deputy first ministers.

A week ago an upgrade of the Coleraine to Derry railway line in time for 2013 was confirmed.

And a few days ago the city became one of the first in Northern Ireland to be awarded the Purple Flag, signifying the safety and popularity of its nightlife.

But a second attack on the City of Culture offices this year, has knocked some confidence in Derry.

On Wednesday night, a small bomb exploded outside the offices in Guldhall Square. A senior police officer in the city called the attack "crazy" and said it could easily have killed someone.

Dissident republicans are being blamed, as they were in January, when a similar attack caused minor damage to the offices.

At the time the SDLP MP for Foyle, Mark Durkan called those responsible "anti-Derry".

image captionPolice are still investigating the area around the City of Culture offices in Derry.

People in the city centre at the time of the explosion told Radio Ulster of their disgust.

"I think it's a disgrace to be honest," said one woman.

"We are supposed to be the City of Culture. It's going to put tourists off because no one will want to come to a city where there is a threat."

Another man said Derry was the "city of bombs".

But will targeting of the City of Culture offices and attacks, such as the bomb at Strand Road police station in August 2010, counter the good work done in the city?

Aideen McGinley, the chief executive of ILEX, the Urban Regeneration Company in Derry, said it will not stop progress.

"We have already seen a huge impact from being the UK City of Culture in terms of employment, in terms of investment in the city," she said.

'Door open'

"It has actually been beyond our expectations."

And Ms McGinley denied that the latest terrorist incident was a setback.

"It's more of a reminder of what we don't want to get back to. There's a lot of work being done at a very detailed level across the city.

"We want people to believe that this is a year when their culture and their beliefs have a platform to be understood. It's the only way we can bring the whole city forward."

The chief executive of the company running the City of Culture, Shona McCarthy, went further and said that her "door is open" to those responsible for the attacks.

"It is sad and it's an obstacle we have to overcome," she said.

"It is better to change whatever that dissension is into a constructive conversation, to bring that into the loop rather than to leave them on the outside.

"The door is open. I would love to have a dialogue. I would love to hear their concerns and issues and see if we can approach this in a constructive and positive way."

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